Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Tshwane, South Africa, Tuesday, 18 July 2006

Condolences to Indonesia

South African President Thabo Mbeki today Tuesday 18 July 2006 extended the condolences of the South African government and people to his Indonesian counterpart President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami south of Java Island in Indonesia on Monday 17 July 2006.

In a message of support to President Yudhoyono President Mbeki said, "Please accept the heartfelt condolences of the South African government and people following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami south of Java Island in Indonesia on Monday 17 July 2006 in which hundreds are reported to have died, scores injured and dispossessed and infrastructure destroyed."

"The thoughts and prayers of the South African government and people are with the government and people of Indonesia. In this moment of devastation and bereavement, we offer our condolences to those who have lost loved ones and wish those wounded a speedy recovery."

"The South African government stands ready to assist the government and people of Indonesia at this time of national mourning," concluded President Thabo Mbeki.

Birthday Greetings to Former President Mandela

  • Let me take this opportunity to extend, from you all, birthday greetings for Former President Nelson Mandela who turns 88 years old today.

Middle East

  • Let me again deal with the issue of the Middle East.
  • Despite statements by the G-8, the European Union, the extra-ordinary Arab League Ministerial, a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council, the situation in the Middle East continues to deteriorate.
  • The Israeli military yesterday launched 50 air strikes that resulted in the deaths of many and the destruction of much of Lebanon's infrastructure. The airport has now been destroyed, the ports inaccessible.
  • The Lebanese Foreign Minister is quoted as saying, "The gates of hell have been opened."
  • The South African government does not accept this principle of "collective punishment." We do not believe that an entire nation can be attacked because of tensions with Hizbollah. We cannot to accept such actions from one of the strongest military powers in the region.
  • The South African government hopes that the international community can begin to act more decisively to end the situation.
  • As Israeli attacks increase, so to does activity by Hizbollah. And as you are aware, Hizbollah has announced that they have many more secret weapons in their arsenal.
  • The South African government is off course, very concerned about the South Africans in the region. We are negotiating with some of our European partners regarding their evacuation. Our Ambassador to Syria has assisted some South Africans to reach Syria. Road evacuations are becoming increasingly difficult due to the continued Israeli attacks. We hope that the ships that are being sent by some of the bigger countries will be able to assist some of the 20 estimated South Africans still in Lebanon. We again encourage South Africans in the region and/or Lebanon to register their presence with the nearest South African embassy.

The Democratic Republic of Congo

  • We are now very close to the elections - a few weeks away - as I have said before, these elections are extremely vital to the country and their outcomes will be decisive for the people of the DRC, SADC and Africa. As I have also said before, these are the first elections in the country in over 40 years during which there has been a very corrupt regime in place. It is because of the significance of these elections for the people of the DRC and the country as a whole that the African Union, SADC and the international community have invested so much in ensuring the elections are indeed held successfully.
  • As you know, I have just returned from the DRC where, as part of a SADC delegation of Foreign and Defence Ministers, we evaluated preparations for the elections to be held later this month and encouraged the political leadership and the people of the DRC to pursue the path towards peaceful, credible, and transparent elections that should reflect the will of the people.
  • The delegation held meetings with the Government of the DRC, the Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Head of MONUC, Ambassador Swing, representatives of Civil Society and some Presidential candidates.
  • Based on our discussions and observations we came to the conclusion that despite numerous challenges, inter alia, the logistical difficulties, this being the largest country in Africa with the largest electorate, and no experience in the holding of elections, that the people of the DRC were eagerly desirous and ready for democratic elections for which they have awaited for over 40 years.
  • The delegation also noted that despite the short period before the elections that there was a need to intensify voter education and to disseminate more information on the electoral process throughout the country.
  • The delegation further noted that incidents of insecurity in some parts of the country were receiving attention and they would not undermine the electoral process. MONUC assured us that security in the eastern DRC was being addressed and that security would prevail and that the elections would proceed.
  • SADC will remain seized with the matter and this is evidenced by the fact that it will deploy the largest observer mission in its history - 200 observers. South Africa will have an observer team of 128, that will be led by Minister Nqakula. The European Union is deploying a team as well as many other NGOs.
  • The SADC delegation in our consultations appealed to all the candidates to accept the outcomes of the elections especially if they were declared free and fair by the IEC.
  • The South African airforce has now delivered the last of the remaining ballot papers for Kinshasa and this has successfully brought the conclusion of its mandate. We are grateful that the South African airforce has ensured that the ballot papers could be delivered within sufficient timeframes to allow the electoral processes to prevail.

Côte d'Ivoire

  • Minister Dlamini Zuma, will upon conclusion of the G-8 Summit, attend the 9th session of the International Working Group meeting on on Côte d'Ivoire in Abidjan on Saturday, 22 July 2006.
  • As you know, this session follows discussions between the United Nations Secretary General, President Olusegan Obasanjo, President Thabo Mbeki and other political roleplayers in Yamassoukro on 5 July 2006.
  • At this time, extensive discussions were held regarding the political process and preparations leading up to the elections. We received a renewed commitment from the parties to deal with the two outstanding issues - the DDR process and the national identification process.
  • This meeting also comes at a very important time because of the preparations for elections later this year.
  • The National Identification Process was launched on 13 July 2006.
  • Regarding the dismantling of the militias and the DDR: dates for implementation are as follows:
  • Sensitisation of combatants and the community to take place between 18& 20 July 2006
  • Ceremony for the commencement of Dismantling and Disarmament (DD) of the Militia will take place on 24 July 2006;
  • Following which will be the beginning of Dismantling and Disarmament of the militia on 25th July 2006.
  • The cut-off date of the DD has been extended from 31st July 2006 to 7th August 2006
  • The two Chiefs of Staff continue their discussions.
  • We hope the DDR process will be accelerated.
  • The United Nations Secretary General, based on his discussions, said that the overall electoral process should be reviewed and a decision on the date for the elections will be taken at the September meeting.

Iran

  • Minister Dlamini Zuma last week held discussions with her Iranian counterpart and the Chief negotiator, Mr Larijani in Tehran.
  • Based on these discussions, President Mbeki was able to brief the G-8 as follows: "We have in our interactions with the G-8 communicated the essential message from the Iranians. It is that they believe this proposal (P5 + Germany package) is important, it constitutes an important starting point with regard to the negotiating process which everybody agrees need to take place, and therefore that they are considering the matter seriously.
  • This package has extensive economic incentives and a provision for the United States to offer Iran some nuclear technology, lift some sanctions and join direct negotiations.
  • The key demand is that Iran stop enriching uranium during any negotiations.
  • Iran has indicated that based on these new proposals, it is ready to negotiate.
  • The P5 + Germany has already tabled a resolution with the Security Council - it is asking that Iran comply with article 41 - otherwise sanctions measures are to be taken under article 41, Chapter 7.
  • If Iran complies with the request to stop nuclear enrichment, no further action will be taken.

Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (North Korea)

  • As you know, when my colleague from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea was here recently, we urged them to exercise caution, not launch any other missiles and to return to the 6 Party Talks to seek a solution.
  • Since then Resolution 1695 has been put to the United Nations Security Council.
  • The resolution does not contain a reference to Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The resolution does however condemn the multiple ballistic missiles carried out by the DPRK and demands that the country suspend all related activities. The resolution also requires that all States prevent the import or export of funds or goods that could fuel Pyongyang's missile or weapons of mass destruction programmes. We will study this resolution to understand the implications for South Africa.
  • The resolution expresses concern for the withdrawal of the DPRK's from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and its stated pursuit of atomic arms in spite of its obligations under the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
  • The DPRK was strongly urged to return immediately to the Six-Party Talks without precondition, to work towards the expeditious implementation of a September 2005 Joint Statement, "in particular to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes" and to return to the NPT and IAEA safeguards.
  • The Resolution also calls for the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks, and urged all the participants to intensify their efforts on the full implementation of the Joint Statement with a view to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia.
  • North Korea rejects this resolution and maintains that this exercise was its legitimate right, as part of its routine military exercises.

Burundi

  • The Facilitator, Minister Nqakula is again in Tanzania in an attempt to seek conclusion to the matter of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.
  • The Facilitator has compiled a ceasefire agreement taking into account comments from both sides.
  • This redrafted document has been presented to both sides for their comment.
    · We are optimistic that the matter of the ceasefire will be concluded soon.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, does the Iranian response to the proposal by the P5 + Germany indicate they are ready to consider a permanent cessation of their nuclear enrichment activities or is this just a stalling tactic?

Answer This is the first time that the Iranians have responded positively to a proposal. Based on our analysis, we realise that this proposal has far-reaching consequences. This is also a very complex, dynamic process. The date of August 26 for response by the Iranians cannot be considered a delaying tactic.

Question Deputy Minister, which are the countries to which you have said requests have been made to assist South Africans in Lebanon. Is it the British - they yesterday said that requests have been made by some Commonwealth countries to assist in the evacuation of nationals? The Beeld yesterday quoted the First Secretary in Syria saying there are more than 20 South Africans in Lebanon - what is your comment?

Answer We have requested assistance from the British and the French.

As for your other question, this is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves - Lebanon is a very popular destination for South Africans. Indeed, we have many Lebanese of South African descent in South Africa.

Also, South Africans don't always inform Embassies of their presence in the country.

And to compound the situation, we do not have an Embassy in Lebanon. The Embassy is Syria is trying to assist.

I again appeal to South Africans to contact our Syrian Embassy if you are in the region - if we are not aware of you, you cannot be part of any evacuation process that may be undertaken.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, what were some of the key G-8 outcomes for Africa?

Answer The South African delegation to the G-8 will only return today. We will do a fuller briefing on this matter next week.

All the immediate indications are that the outcomes of this session of the G-8 were quite positive - the voice of Africa has been heard. There is also optimism regarding the World Trade Organisation Talks - it was a good opportunity for Heads of State to discuss the position of Brazil and India regarding Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) concessions.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, Brazil has indicated that it could suggest to its negotiators to be more flexible. Does this suggest a G-5 position?

Answer If we look at the G-20 position - the key issues are the agricultural subsidies and tariff issues. There is a demand for the developing countries to concede to Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA). The countries most affected by this are Brazil and India. The G-8 meeting would have provided a good opportunity for the Heads of State to discuss this matter.

As I said last week, the failure of these talks will threaten the entire international trading system.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, given Minister Nqakula's involvement in the situation, is he the best person to lead the South African Observer Mission to the DRC?

Answer Minister Nqakula has a lot of experience, he is a senior member of Cabinet, he is involved with the training of police in the DRC and has good links with the military.

Being the head of the Mission does not mean he has to be permanently based in the DRC - he can continue his work in South Africa and return to the DRC as required.

He will also be supported by Minister Lekota from time to time.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, can you please clarify whether the AU Report on Zimbabwe was accepted at the Summit in Banjul?

Answer The Charter in the main has been accepted. It is either clause 255 or 355 that deals with changes in the constitution that was referred back to the Secretariat for rewording.

The Human Rights report has also been accepted in the main, except for the part dealing with Zimbabwe. The Zimbabweans have requested more time to deal with these matters.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Tshwane
0001

18 July 2006

 

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